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Using the concept of Flow in the classroom

Flow is an impotant concept for young people at school as strong feelings of being in flow are vital for motivation. What is more, it can be useful to introduce the concept to young people to get them thiking about the types of activities where they are most likely to experience flow. It can also be helpful for the quality of young people's future lives if they are aware that satisfaction in life is more dependent on engagement in work and hobbies than it is on consumption and easy pleasures.

 Mihaly Csikszentmihlalyi lists the following eight ingredients of flow:

1. The experience occurs ususally when we are involved in  tasks that we have a good chance of completing.

2. W are able to concentrate fully on the activity.

3. The task has clear goals.

4. The task is such that it gives us immediate feedback on how well we are doing.

5. Our involvement is 'deep but effortless' and this  'removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of eveyday life.'

6. There is a sense of exercising a sense of control over our actions.

 7. 'Concern for the self disappears' but paradoxically our 'sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.'

8. We lose our normal sense of time - we can feel either that it has speeded up (and passed quickly) or slowed down.

Teachers could easily introduce these ideas to older primary school students or those at secondary shcool.  Following a general introduction to the concept students could be asked to keep a 'flow' diary for a few weeks where they reflected on when they were in flow and the conditions which helped to create this feeling.  The students could be encouraged to compare how they feel as a result of watching TV or other passive activities and activities where they are more engaged - e.g. playing compurter  games. The teacher could facilitate a discussion among students who identified very different activities (e.g. sports or reading) to look at how the feelings engendered were similar although the activities were very different.

Some students may be aware that they get into flow easily through computer games or surfing the net and it might be helfpul for them to think through the benefits they get from this.  Could they get the same feeling from participating in activities which are better at building more useful skills?  What might these more useful activities be?

Copyright; Carol Craig Centre for Confidence and Well-being 2007

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